100 Beautiful Jokes
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 2014

In the performance 100 Beautiful Jokes, Michael Portnoy proposes a new breed of joke. Rather than simply a means to laughter, the artist imagines the joke to be a thing of rare, complicated beauty to linger over and be emotionally transported by; something that makes you shudder for reasons slightly beyond reach.

Portnoy performs one beautiful joke every three minutes for five hours, accompanied by a lush cinematic soundtrack. The material for these highly abstract jokes is derived from a collection of his original texts, scores and lexicons, transmitted to him throughout the show. Both verbally and physically, Portnoy navigates through a landscape of prompts and source information, and uses that to channel and compose the script on the spot.

This project continues Portnoy's long-term exploration of the poetic potential of jokes, which he has explored in many media, from the written word, to installation, pedagogy, dance and conferences with humor theorists.

Curated By Hendrik Folkerts
All images by Ernst van Deursen

Review: Best of 2014, Artforum, Dec 2014